Do you ever have times when your life flashes before your eyes? Over the past few weeks, I have been teaching classes at my local church. Specifically, I am teaching the new believer’s class and have been developing my own curriculum for that purpose. Now, the first question that you may be asking is “Why develop something yourself? Aren’t there a bunch of already made curricula you could use?” (Thanks, Grammarly™, I did not remember that ‘curricula’ was the plural form of ‘curriculum’) …anyway… Yes, the answer is yes. There are many very fine and long-used training guides for new believers to be found. I actually remember using the Survival Kit™ when I was a new believer, way back in 1984. I still had that book in my possession and the Soul Winners™ New Testament also given to me by my church for that class up until recently. There is nothing wrong with utilizing pre-made materials, and in fact, I recommend that you do so in most cases. However, in this case, I decided to develop my own curriculum for reasons de trois. Three reasons. First, I really wanted to challenge myself to not take shortcuts and to really dig into what it is that we are supposed to know and understand about having a Biblical faith in Jesus Christ. Secondly, I was asked by my pastor to ensure that the class was accessible to all. The previous iteration of the class had received reviews that it was far too advanced for those who had come to the faith from backgrounds that did not include a Biblical foundation. As an aside, I think that this is likely a large issue in the Christian church today. Gone are the days of an assumed Christian worldview that formed a community basis for understanding and belief. I feel that it is rather evident that our culture in America today is clearly post-Christian. To that realization, I have been working to develop a teaching plan to educate a new believer who has had no Biblical background whatsoever in what should be the basics of what it means to be a Christian. Finally, I wanted to re-educate myself in the foundational beliefs of Christianity.
I cannot understate how much I have changed since my last tour in Afghanistan. I often feel like there is much that I have forgotten, and perhaps it’s a more honest statement that there is much I feel like I’ve never truly known. Many of the concepts and doctrines that I have spent years studying in preparation for a career in the ministry seem hazy to me now. I remember studying them, but in a rush for a test, and with a cursory glance in order to get a passing grade. I may have received a passing grade for seminary but today I am feeling like I have received a failing grade in life. That’s why I mentioned our lives flashing before our eyes. I have been struck multiple times over the past months with things in the Bible that I did not previously know. Details have exploded my understanding of God’s plan, words have leaped off the pages to challenge my comprehension of grace and mercy, and a feeling of complete ineptness has become normative for me. The flash of my life seems to capture a picture of someone who did a great job of playacting, of pretending.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe that He is who He said He is. I believe that He died for me and that because I have accepted His free gift, I have eternal life. I believe the Word of God to be true and without error and that it holds the pathway for proper life and peace through living the way of God Himself. I believe that the Spirit of Truth has lived inside of me since the day that I accepted the free gift of salvation and that He has always tried reaching out to me and guiding me in all aspects of life. But, that’s the point right? There is so much “me” in that paragraph. And it’s not supposed to be that way. Jesus says in John 14:21 that “the one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I will also love him and reveal Myself to him.” So, a natural question is “what commands?” He gave many commandments during His earthly ministry and when you realize that Jesus is the Word Incarnate, then ALL of the scripture comes under His authority. Jesus Himself summarized the Law & the Prophets when He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40). That means, then, Jesus teaches that if we follow Him that we will demonstrate love to God and to others. Also, and not to be taken lightly is the word love. Jesus clearly teaches that following Him means loving Him. The love shown for Him is reciprocated by God the Father. Love is also shown to be the correct fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Love towards God the Father is demonstrated by living in a manner that echoes the reality of truth, holiness, and compassion as defined and understood by Him. It is equally so found in how and why we demonstrate that same love towards our neighbors. Not just Howard and Karilee across the street, but those people that God defines as our neighbors. And who is that? Luke 10 shows that Jesus considers all people to be our neighbors. Not just the nice people, not just those we agree with, not just those that make it easy or we want to reach out to. All of humanity is encompassed in the definition of neighbors. So, what is love? Paul explains it in this way: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The perfect expression of love was defined by Jesus in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay his life down for his friends.” Not to miss the point that I am belaboring here, our lives are supposed to be a reflection of all that. The picture flash of our lives ought to be one of placing ourselves in the position of the lowest servant, striving to reach out and assist those in and around our lives to a knowledge of God and His perfect plan. And too often, at least in my own life, I worry about how I feel, or how it will look, or just “me, me, me.” It’s like I’m perpetually stuck in a bird’s nest squeaking loudly for feeding but when anyone comes around then pretending to be an eagle guarding my brood. I’m telling you this plainly, the Bible is a living thing. It reaches out and speaks to us where we are, and it is double-edged. In one moment I can be blown away by an amazing insight and the next, completely ashamed at the revealing slice of truth. Paul, in discussing what Jesus taught about the fulfillment of the Law in Matthew 22, reiterates the point by saying “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” He then pivots to a personal message sent to 2022 from AD57, “It is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now, our salvation is nearer than we first believed.” If that was true in the first century, how much more is that the case here today, nearly 2 millennia later?
I’m tired of being asleep and I’m sick of thinking just about me. Great, my ticket to heaven is punched, but what about people I know, family and friends? What about that man walking down the road every morning? What about those people I talk to in my regular daily interactions? I have recently had several revelations in my life that I have had to come to an acceptance of. First, I can’t change who I am or where I am. The choices of my life before today are done. Finite. The injuries, physical and spiritual, are a reality of shaping who I am today. I can’t go back and be unhurt by them. But, I can heal from them. Not completely, as I will always have the results of those injuries in my life, but they can guide me, they do not have to define me. Second, I can choose each day to stop living for myself alone and start looking at my life with the eyes of Christ and with the goal of making each moment, each second, count for something much more important. The path I have chosen to take might have a bunch of flash pictures of sadness, fear, anger, incompetence, and outright sin, but, but…that doesn’t have to be the case any longer.
Aiming to awaken,